PhD student Krista McLennan has shown that cows have strong ties with certain members of the herd, and become stressed when isolated from them. She believes this information could help improve milk yields, as well as the lives as the cows.
McLennan, a student at Northampton University in the UK, measured the heart rates and cortisol levels of cows to see how they coped when separated from their companions. The animals were then penned alone, with their close herd mate, or with a strange cow for 30 minutes, and then their heart rates measured every 15 seconds. The results show that cows are social creatures who often share close bonds with friends in the herd.
“When heifers have their preferred partner with them, their stress levels in terms of their heart rates are reduced compared with if they were with a random individual,” said McLennan. “I’ve spoken to a number of farmers who have said they do notice bonds building among their cows and some spending a lot of time together.”
She now hopes her suggestions will be taken on by the dairy industry. “If we can encourage farmers to keep an eye out for those cows which like to keep their friends with them, it could have some real health benefits, such as improving their milk yields and reducing stress for the animals, which is important for their welfare.”
Source: Daily Mail
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